With the students I usually work with, we do one or two steps forward into touchy territory, and then we go back to something fun and easy. Some kids will continue to go deep and some will take the opportunity for a break and write an easy poem.

I have a collection of ordinary items that I rotate in a basket to bring in for days like these. You can pull something from your junk drawer or start your own treasure chest. On my own desk I have nature items to inspire me, favorite rocks and twigs and dried flowers and leaves. Depending on the group, we either stay serious and write about the item as it really is or sometimes we go off and pretend that it is anything but what we are holding in our hand. I pass the basket and everyone picks one item out that speaks to them. I encourage them to brainstorms the basics of what it looks and feels like and then to just jot down anything that comes to mind. Make a list. So many poems can come out of the lists. Then they can go back and take that list, add some more details, and shape it into a poem.

Because I have been focusing on (obsessing) the hummingbird nesting in my yard, I think for this poem, I’m going to pick up those binoculars.

Here’s my rough poem, a trio of haiku.

snug in high branches
grandfather’s binoculars
bring the magic close

close enough to touch
iridescent feathers wave
while wind rocks the nest

while wind rocks the nest
baby hummingbirds slumber
snug in high branches

—Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved